Monday, September 29, 2014

We have an adoption date!

It's been a long haul but we're finally here. We got an official adoption date for our foster daughter Ana.

Later I'll post all sorts of stats and timeline and fun information and pictures!!! Real pictures of my beautiful oldest girl!  But for now all I'll say is that we will legally and forever and ever be the parents of Ana on October 6th, 2014. *God-willing of course!*

I'd love to ask for your prayers for Ana (this is a good but nerve-wracking time for her), her older sister who has yet to be adopted, her younger brother that his adoption with his aunt should be finalized soon, her baby sister that she continue to grow and thrive in her loving adoptive home, and most importantly Ana's birth parents. Her birthmother is in need of lots of prayers, I recently became aware of yet more legal action regarding her. Join me in praying she has a conversion of heart and comes to take care of herself and those around her. May she set an example of grace and redemption for her daughters someday, and if not may they have the eyes to see the grace that has already been worked in spite of their birthmother's choices.

And please pray for us, that we can be the parents Ana needs, that we have the strength and commitment to maintain all her sibling relationships across distances both geographical and cultural, and that we can love her for the beautiful, messy, artistic, nurturing, energetic, moody, athletic, and sweet girl that she is.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2015 Catholic Planner Update-September

Okay everyone! I'm inching my way to getting the planner all ready to go. I've got 11 out of 12 articles (obtaining one more way well be the death of me) and all the formatting and plugging-in-of-liturgical-dates and finding-of-scripture and pasting-in-proper-copyright-pages is done. Add a few secular holidays (yes I have the day for Saint Hedwig marked but not the Fourth of July, priorities everyone!) and we'll be in business.

I may also add a couple extra pages, like a year-at-a-glance kinda page and a few blank note pages. Because I'm a planner freak and I always like a few extras in my planners (within reason, generally I like an uncluttered approach).

Oh, and I added in December so I could make it start at the beginning of Advent and so that as soon as your planner arrives, whenever that is, you can start using it right away. So it will actually run December 2014-December 2015, 13 months.

And apparently God likes my project, at least I hope I'm interpreting this windfall correctly as such, and we had a small financial windfall that enables me to get the supplies to start printing/binding the planners without dipping into our regular monthly budget. Yay! So I'll be ordering those asap and getting quotes on a few things I won't be doing myself. Color copies are insanely expensive at printing places but their cutting and binding services are very cost-effective so I will likely avail myself of them.

I'll likely have two release dates for the planners: one for the inexpensive digital copy you can download and print yourself and one for the hard copy that you can have arrive at your doorstep all pretty and fancy and ready to write in.

I have a couple blog posts in the works, some on dyslexia and remediating reading for dyslexics as well as a post raving about how awesome Ana's school is. And some other pictures of the little ones and an ADOPTION DATE!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Pew Seatbelts...Let's Make This Happen

Awhile ago I noticed a bunch of fantastic posts from bloggers on kids (particularly babies and toddlers) in Mass. There were so many tips and tricks and the advice ran the gamut of "have high expectations and the little ones follow along" to "bring snacks and coloring books and if you have to leave for a bit it's okay." 

And I've given advice on church behavior too, and mostly we did well with our first. And then Peter came along and he's, well, he's Peter. But he's three now and downright reasonable! I mean, he can last a whole hour without destroying anything or dissolving into a pool of tears usually. 

Plus I have this awesome new secret weapon!

My HUSBAND comes with me! Mwahaha! Try to get away with your usual antics now you crazy children, there are now two of us in the pew to wrestle you into compliance! 

Seriously, I've never experienced going to church on Sunday morning with my husband regularly....and it is awesome-sauce!

But.

There is a but.

But, now Tahlia is about to turn two and if three makes my kids reasonable then two definitely makes them insane. I always threaten to send them to preschool the whole time they're two, the entire year. They make big messes, break things, scream, cry, throw themselves on the floor, run in circles, and generally cause mayhem. And this mayhem does not participate in the Sabbath day...or even a sabbath hour for that matter. 

In fact, our current almost-two year old just got into all our nice, neat Dave Ramsey-style envelopes and was sitting in a pile of cash on our bedroom floor. Fun!


Don't let that look of innocence fool you. She's a little beastie!

All this to say that Mass today was terrible. Tahlia just did not want to sit still. She squirmed and kicked, grabbed things and cried, whined and fussed and generally made a nuisance of herself. Then Peter decided to join in the fun and threw a tantrum too. Yay! I ended up standing in a side room holding her and then my back hurt so I gave up and took her to the car and strapped her in the carseat...where she happily sat still and played with her toes for the next 15 minutes.

So I am proposing a solution. Pew seatbelts! We need seat belts, or rather a 5-point harness attached to the pews for toddlers and preschoolers. Because my kids, and most kids I've seen, submit to being contained in a car seat for an hour no problem. Heck, mine have been known to make 8 hour road trips with nary a peep! But bring them in church? Nope, suddenly they act like I'm poking them with hot needles instead of just asking them to sit relatively still and somewhat quiet in the pew with a snack and crayons to color with.

If anyone is feeling ambitious, please invent and sell pew seat belts. They'll need to be a 5-point harness, attach temporarily to the pew, and hold up to a 40lb child securely. Surely this can be done? I mean, we have the internet and stuff, surely a pew seat belt doesn't need to be in the realm of science fiction!

If you make them, send me one, please.

I'll pay you I promise, just as soon as I figure out where Tahlia put the spending money....






Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Toddler Fall Wardrobe: Skirts and Tights

I don't know what it is about me and fall? Apparently it makes me clean and organize my house and it also makes me sew stuff. Specifically clothes for my youngest daughter. Like her whole wardrobe. Cause I'm crazy. 

So I'll introduce you to her wardrobe:


First I went to Target and bought 4 cheap long-sleeved t-shirts. Then off to Jo-anns I went, coupons in hand! I found four coordinating fabrics to match each shirt and whipped up new four skirts!


I love toddler skirts, and just skirts in general. But there is no way in h-e-double-hockeysticks that I am paying $17 for a silly skirt that my daughter will outgrow in 6 months. That'd be crazy! But I also want her to look cute. Sewing might not always be *the* cheapest way to get clothes, probably shopping at the thrift store exclusively would be the cheapest but our thrift store has terrible selection and I just want cuter clothes than I can usually find there. Sewing fills in that gap between what I want (name brand, cute toddler clothes) and the budget I have (um, since my husband is unemployed....very little).

I mentioned the clothes before so I won't babble on and on about them. I just wanted to share the pics of all the outfits in action. (Be Warned: squirmy toddler = blurry photos, so sorry!)

First up, the purple modern outfit!


Second, the classic cream and pink combo!


Third, the fun sparkly silver and coral and purplish gray combo! 


Lastly, the yellow polka dots and lacey cream shirt combo!A definite win with the super-yellow blonde hair :)


I also found tights to go with each outfit. Tahlia is comfy and warm and can move freely but also happens to look super cute. Win-Win!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Autumn Home Things



When Kyle was searching for a new pastoral call back when we lived in West Virginia we had the luxury of job-hunting with stable, if unpleasant, employment for the foreseeable future. So we really talked about what we wanted and what we didn't want. We knew we'd be moving out of West Virginia, that was a given. And the first thing we both agreed upon was that we would not consider moving anywhere without four real seasons. None of this Summer, Summer, Summer, Monsoon! from Arizona. Or Almost-Winter, Winter, Not Quite Winter, and Construction of Minnesota (actually Minnesota wasn't too bad but still, a 5 month Winter was just a bit much. No, we wanted a snowy winter, flowery spring, warm summer, and a cool autumn with real leaves turning colors and falling from the trees. 


And we totally found that! Now, no place beats New Hampshire/Vermont for Autumn weather and color, but Pennsylvania holds its own for sure! We're already able to leave the windows open for a cool breeze all day and night and I've got the fall decorations out. Life is good. 



I keep the same wreath most of the year, it's a plain twiggy sort of leaf and I just wrap it with leaves or flowers as suits the season. This year I cut the head off a fake sunflower and hot glued it to a pin which can be clipped or unclipped from the wreath. I think it spruces it up a good bit.


Kyle picked up some mums, and our front porch is officially ready to go for Autumn!



I also picked up these adorable little owl salt and pepper shakers at Target. Aren't they adorable? There were navy blue ones too which I adored but just wouldn't match my kitchen and I love the look of cream/white against our dark green countertops and wood trim. Yes, I have green laminate counters and oak trim and I actually kinda love them :)


Of course the fall candles came out as well.


And then the apple crisp and vanilla frozen yogurt! I LOVE apple crisp, it is heaven in my oven, totally magical.

And, perhaps because I'm motivated and perhaps because it's only eaten a couple times a year, I actually cook this one! Yep, I measure stuff and toss it in bowls and grease a pan and use the oven! Craziness! (for new readers: I hate cooking, I'm bad at it, I just don't do it....I can throw together a mean sandwich or salad but that's about it).

Here's the recipe I use. It's a combo of a couple different recipes.

Apple Crisp

12-14 apples
1 cup sugar
4tsp cinnamon
1.5 cup flour
1/3 cup oatmeal
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract

1. Peel and cut apples
2. Place apples in a greased 9x13in glass pan
3. Combine sugar and cinnamon, stirring well
4. Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the apples
5. Combine the flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla, mixing with a spoon until a crumble mixture is formed and all ingredients are well-blended. Add flour as needed to make it crumbly if it's not crumbly enough at first.
6. Spread this mixture over the sugared apples.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or until the apples are tender and the topping is a golden brown.

Cool and serve with ice cream or other frozen treat of your choice!
(~14 servings)

Add a little Gilmore Girls, soccer, sweaters, scarves, argyle socks, riding boots, and hot chocolate and that's how we do Autumn!


Friday, September 12, 2014

7 Quick Takes: A Birthday, a Camera, Chickens, and Planners

-1-

September 1st was Kyle's 31st Birthday!

*somebody moved too fast and made a funny face when I tried to get the obligatory "blowing out the candles" picture so we had to stage it....and I got another more sarcastic funny face. Sigh!


Ah, that's better! A real picture, though not of blowing out the candles. 




-2-

I made the traditional angel food cake for his birthday, this time with chocolate sprinkles added to the glaze...a suggestion made by Peter that actually turned out delicious! The cake was enjoyed by all of course.







-3-

For his birthday I got Kyle an OlloClip for his phone camera. 


It's pretty neat, it makes your iPhone photos look much better and allows for customizing the shot a bit more. Kyle's always been into photography but we can't afford a fancy camera like a lot of people have nowadays so most of our photos are taken with just our iPhones or our small digital camera. The Olloclip also allows for very close shots and very wide shots. Kyle's looking into starting real estate classes to be a real estate agent and if he does that I figured it would be good for him to have a decent quality camera lens that allows him to get a wide shot of rooms. One of our big pet peeves is that here in our town nobody takes decent pictures of their homes to sell them! It's nuts, they take 1-2 pics, dim, blurry, and full of the previous owner's clutter, and slap it on Zillow and then are shocked when their house takes a year to sell. 

So hopefully Kyle can do better than that :)

He's also having fun just taking pictures around the house. 




-4-

And even the chickens got some head shots. The closest Maran hen is Splash, the black Maran is Raven, and the three Leghorns are Felicity, Ruby, and Gabriela. See the evil eye Splash is giving? Isn't she frightening?! lol! That's her "yes, I will cluck at 6am and wake you but you won't do anything about it because I can totally peck your face out" expression. Except she really is very nice, she just doesn't look it. And she does rule the roost, all the other hens do what she says so they must think she's intimidating looking too. 


I like this one, a very classic Leghorn pose:


-5-

And just for fun, here's Tahlia petting one of the Leghorns. She loves the chickens, she always wants to hold them but they don't let her. Peter can pick them up though and he'll carry them around the yard. Our Leghorns are so docile, I love them, I still think of them as our baby chickies :)



-6-

So Kyle is now 31, totally crazy. He filled out a Facebook quiz earlier and of course I *had* to tease him about how he is in the 31-40 age range and I'm still in the 21-30 range, haha!

He's still mostly unemployed since he resigned from his job as pastor of a Lutheran church in August.  However, he was offered a job as an adjunct professor at St. Francis University nearby! We're excited about that! He'll be teaching two classes of a Sociology/Religion combo class called Franciscan Goals for Today starting in the Spring semester. It's the perfect class for him to teach really, combining all of his interests and experience. However, it is only very part-time and so he still needs a full-time position by January when the severance pay ends. That's why he's pursuing his real estate license on top of applying to other local full-time jobs. We really don't want to move again so we're doing everything in our power to stay. Real estate would pay the bills and be a job he'd enjoy and could work as little or as much as he needs to bring in enough to support our family. It would also allow Kyle to be flexible with his class schedule at the college and continue working into full-time teaching at the college level. Eventually he ought to go back and get his doctorate to get a proper tenure track position, we just have to figure out how to make that happen financially and logistically. 

He's also applying to local jobs as chaplain, social worker, and other jobs working for non-profits mostly in marketing and fundraising. We're praying something comes through soon!

-7-

Btw, the 2015 Catholic Planner is coming along nicely! I'm finished with the scripture passages (finally! That is some good but tedious work!) and all the basic stuff. I've just been working on adding in the articles and tweaking them. And along those lines because of the delay I'm now in need of 1-2 articles for the planner, just short 1-page kinda deals, on Catholic Life (I have several available topic suggestions). If anyone is interested in getting a free copy of the planner (ya know, when it's finished next decade) and having some free advertising for their own blog, ebook, or etsy projects shoot me an e-mail!  imagine.more (at) yahoo.com

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Friday!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Look What We Found!

On Sunday after church we found this cute guy on our parsley plants outside!


He's very brightly colored and we wondered what sort of caterpillar he was. I knew I'd seen caterpillars like him before in New Hampshire (where I grew up until age 9) so I first googled Monarch caterpillars and then Swallowtail. It turns out he's a Black Swallowtail Caterpillar. And yes, "he" is a male :)  The males have yellow spots and the females have blue. 


Being homeschoolers, of course we had to turn our little caterpillar friend into a science lesson. Or several :) It's like a compulsion...we see something interesting and we turn it into a unit study. Haha!


So into the old plastic fish tank he went, along with a couple sturdy sticks and a handful of the parsley he had been sitting on. By day 2 he was munching away on parsley all day long. He reminded me of the Very Hungry Caterpillar, just devouring the herb. He decimated two stalks before nightfall.

On day 3 he slowed down considerably. We weren't sure if it was from the cold or because he was ready to make a chrysalis. But Tobias wrote down his observations so we could keep track of the caterpillar's growth and progress.


Here's Tobias's observations on the caterpillar, and his drawing. Those parsley leaves were painstakingly drawn :)


Today, day 4, this very hungry caterpillar had made his laps around the container and selected a good spot to set up camp. He's in the classic pre-chrysalis position, curved along the bottom of the stick and seemingly hanging on by his mouth. Except when I got a really close up shot with my camera I saw a thin thread of silk holding him up like a sling. Kinda cool! I expect we'll see some serious chrysalis-building action in the next couple days and then a whole lot of nothing until the big day. I still haven't ascertained if the chrysalis stage will last 3 weeks or the entire winter, I'm seeing that there's quite a range and it all depends on the weather. Warmer weather = shorter chrysalis stay.


Here's Tobias' observations of the caterpillar today.